For some El Pasoans, trying to apply for Food Stamps, TANIF, and even Medicare can be hard; as the application is thirty-three pages long. If that wasn’t enough, trying to figure out which items are needed to send to support the application can be even harder. And if you’ve ever had to call 211 for help, you know how long it can take just to get someone on the line.
Fortunately, the Texas Health and Human Services has created the Community Partner Program. The El Paso Community College was host to the Upper Rio Grande Valley Regional Community Forum.
The Forum was an opportunity for community groups to meet with, and learn from individuals and groups who are part of the Community Partner Program. A program that connects partner agencies with individuals within the community who need help applying for state benefits: filling out applications, compiling supporting documentation, when and how to appeal, and more.
“Until a few years ago, Benefits applications were complicated and submitted as paper applications,” said Lilia Herrera-Estrada, Regional Partnership Specialist for El Paso. “But there can be errors with paper applications, such as misreading a number, or not understanding someone’s handwriting.”
As of September of last year, almost 4.5 million people received healthcare benefits, and just under 4 million received SNAP assistance – plenty of opportunities for mistakes, leading to delays or denials.
Organizations such as San Vicente, Le Fe, Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care, and El Pasoans Fighting Hunger have partnered with HSSC to help connect individuals with state programs, as well a navigate the application process. “There are people that do not have internet access, or are unable to visit an office,” said Lilia. Others, I learned, just don’t like going online or need the extra assistance with the process.
What the Community Partner Program does is allow others to help in the process. Anyone can visit one of the Partner organizations, which can be found by clicking here. At that point, you can walk-in, or set an appointment to see a case worker, or navigator who will sit with you and help you set up your account online as well as help you apply on-line for needed assistance and benefits.
Others, such as April Rosales of El Pasoins Fighting Hunger will go out and visit with members of the community. “I have a touchscreen laptop, and I show them how to use the system. That way they can become independent. My goal is to help them become independent.”
San Vicente, in addition to having affordable health clinics in El Paso County, they also assist as part of the Community program. “We help them apply for SNAP, TANIF, Medicare, Chip as well as assist them with the Affordable Care Act such as apply, or update information,” says Luis Galindo, Insurance Navigator with San Vicente.
Elvira Viramontes of Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care also assists individuals in their application process.
Like other groups, they also go a step further. “We also give referrals for other needs. Shelter, drug related programs, and other pantries. We also assist with immediate needs such as food baskets, clothes, and a hot meal.”
There is still a need for other organizations to join the Community Partner Program. If your group, be it a church, a medical clinic, or an organization that is in contact with the larger Community, and would like to become part of the Community Partner Program you are encouraged to send them an email at CPP@hhc.state.tx.us or, CommunityPartnershipProgram@hhc.state.tx.us